Leila Navidi, Steve Marcus
Wednesday, July 2, 2008 | 8:45 p.m.
Among the state’s 42 Assembly districts, elections in three of the most contentious have drawn candidates with little name recognition. Voters may struggle to discern who among them is best fit for office — and whoever wins may tilt the political axis of Nevada.
Democrats hold 27 seats in the Assembly, but if they can win one more, they will be able to overcome a veto by Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons.
In each of the three seats at issue, the incumbent is not seeking reelection — Republican Valerie Weber in District 5 (which includes Spring Valley), and Democrats RoseMary Womak in District 23 (eastern Henderson) and Susan Gerhardt in District 29 (southern Henderson). Democrats outregister Republicans in each of the districts.
Most of these candidates have limited resources, so they’ll have to rely on strong ground campaigns, including draping door knobs with fliers, over the next four months.
The candidates are braving oppressive heat to pound miles of pavement and playing the undercard at barbecues on Saturday afternoons headlined by party leaders.
But it may not matter.
If these little-known candidates don’t connect with voters, UNLV political science professor Dave Damore says, voters will likely decide by party affiliation.
Democrat Marilyn Dondero Loop, 56, the daughter of former County Commissioner Thalia Dondero, is a retired schoolteacher who sells textbooks. She proposes strengthening mentor programs for young teachers to improve teacher retention, but says she is unsure how to better fund education.
Republican Donna Toussaint is a 61-year-old retiree and longtime community activist. She says the state is “failing our children.” She suggests that the state consider increasing health clinic fees to help pay for more inspectors. “Our beauty salons, it appears, are regulated more,” she says.
Democrat Allison Herr, 44, a family lawyer, says the state does not do enough for seniors, especially in terms of housing and health care. Health care in general needs to be improved, she says, as do roads and highways.
Republican Melissa Woodbury, 39, the daughter of County Commissioner Bruce Woodbury, is a longtime special education teacher who works with autistic children. “I want to bring a voice for parents and teachers to the Legislature,” she says. Woodbury also wants the state to improve roads and freeways.
Democrat April Mastroluca, 40, works for the national PTA and is focusing her campaign on better education, but says she is not sure how to pay for it. She wants the state to develop new sources of renewable energy and to protect renters who live in foreclosed homes.
Republican Sean Fellows, 28, is a reservist and an Iraq war veteran. He wants more charter schools to increase options, affordable — but not universal — health care, and high-occupancy or toll lanes to ease traffic congestion.